Bill O'Reilly, producer of his talk show agree to settle harassment, extortion suits

Friday, October 29th 2004, 7:28 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Citing his wish to shield his family, Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly settled a harassment lawsuit brought by a former producer accusing him of graphically discussing sex with her.

``This brutal ordeal is now officially over, and I will never speak of it again,'' O'Reilly said on Thursday night's edition of his talk show, ``The O'Reilly Factor.''

O'Reilly, who is married with two children, also dropped an extortion lawsuit against his accuser and her lawyer. Both sides have agreed to keep the details confidential, O'Reilly's attorney said.

Andrea Mackris, 33, who was a producer on the show, sued the outspoken, top-rated TV host Oct. 13, alleging O'Reilly made a series of explicit phone calls to her, advised her to use a vibrator and telling her about sexual fantasies involving her.

Earlier that day, O'Reilly, 55, filed a lawsuit accusing Mackris and her lawyer of trying to extort $60 million in ``hush money'' over her allegations.

``This matter has caused enormous pain, but I had to protect my family, and I did,'' O'Reilly, whose ratings have gone up 30 percent since the lawsuits were filed, told his viewers Thursday. ``All I can say to you is please do not believe everything you hear and read.''

Shortly before ``Factor'' aired, O'Reilly's lawyer, Ronald Green, issued a statement saying the cases and claims had been withdrawn and all parties agreed there was no wrongdoing by O'Reilly, Mackris or Mackris' lawyer.

Green's statement about the settlement did not mention money, and it could not be learned immediately whether it was a factor.

Mackris' lawyer didn't return several telephone calls seeking comment.

Earlier, O'Reilly had vowed to fight the accusations.

``If I have to go down, I'm willing to do it,'' he said just after the suits were filed. ``I'm going to take a stand. I'm a big mouth on the air and I'm a big mouth off the air.''

He called the case ``the single most evil thing I have ever experienced, and I've seen a lot. But these people picked the wrong guy.''

Green had refused to confirm or deny specific things that Mackris claimed O'Reilly said to her, but he said at the time that O'Reilly ``denies that he has done anything that rises to the level of unlawful sexual harassment.''

Green also had said he believed there were tapes of conversations between the two and asked a court to compel Mackris to produce them so they could be played publicly.

``I know that he does not fear what is on the tapes,'' Green said at the time.

Among the accusations made in the suit, Mackris said O'Reilly suggested during a phone conversation in August that she buy a vibrator and was clearly excited. Before hanging up, she said, O'Reilly told her: ``I appreciate the fun phone call.'' She contended he made a similar call Sept. 21, ending by saying: ``Next time you'll come up to my hotel room and we'll make this happen.''

Several days after filing her sexual harassment suit, Mackris filed amended court papers, claiming that Fox had violated her rights under New York state law by firing her after the allegations were raised.

Fox denied Mackris had been fired, saying she had simply stopped coming to work.

A spokeswoman for Fox would not say whether Mackris is still on Fox's payroll.

Green had said Mackris never taken her complaint to anyone at Fox. She had returned to Fox earlier this year after a short stint at CNN, and O'Reilly agreed to match her salary at CNN, the network said.

Fox produced an e-mail Mackris sent to a friend last month, saying things are ``wonderful,'' and she was ``surrounded by really good, fun people. I'm home and I'll never leave again.''

Mackris said in her lawsuit that she told O'Reilly she would return to Fox only if he stopped behaving inappropriately.